The ambitious bet against FIFA and eFootball (PES)

Amidst so much announcement made at Gamescom 2021’s Opening Night Live, the UFL news was certainly one of the most attention-grabbing.

This is especially due to the purpose of the new football game, which shakes up a whole balanced ecosystem in a gaming genre. It is not common for a new football game to appear, much less one that has the declared intention of fighting for the historically established dominance of the duo FIFA and PES — this second one, which is now called eFootball.

Developer Strikerz Inc. faced a huge challenge. The studio has offices across Europe and hopes that the UFL will win over the world. It’s a tough market to break, even more so considering the financial power of EA’s FIFA.

So how does Strikerz Inc. plan to handle this? We caught up with Eugene Nashilov, the studio’s CEO, to find out what makes UFL unique.

It is clear, when talking to Nashilov, that this is not a rash decision, to make a new football game and fight. UFL has been in development for five years, and a lot of research on football games was done before the creative work had even started.

“Before we move on to the game development stage, we do an in-depth study of the market, analyze the needs and demands of players, examine the pros and cons of existing titles, and much more,” explains Nashilov. “The feedback and data we collected motivated us to create a game totally, one that meets and surpasses the idea of ​​the perfect game of football between players.”

Calling it “the perfect game of football” may sound a bit ambitious, but with the growing discontent among the FIFA community, UFL sees an opportunity to step into the fray. But why does Nashilov feel that UFL will break the EA-Konami hegemony?

“Football games have been on the market for over 25 years. However, the games on the market today have failed to innovate: over the years, football simulators have barely updated to follow modern game trends, mechanics and models of football. business. The community has been complaining for years,” he says.

“Perhaps existing football games, with an eye on their strong legacy, have found it difficult to change and bring in new features in a timely manner. UFL, on the other hand, is an entirely new game that embodies and reflects the hopes and expectations of players.”

More than anything, the UFL seems to have been born out of developers’ frustration with the directions EA and Konami have taken in their football games in recent years. The studio calls its developers “soccer fans and gamers,” who strive to create the kind of football simulator they dream of playing. But what exactly will make the UFL stand out?

A big issue is the licensing of clubs and leagues, something that FIFA strongly dominates compared to rivals. On the Strikerz website, it reads: “In UFL, players will be able to create their own football clubs, made up of more than 5000 licensed players, and compete with other players from around the world to demonstrate their skills and aim for the top of the league.”

From there, we can speculate that perhaps players will create their own virtual team, built from real-life teams and athletes. This hasn’t been explained by the developers, but it certainly looks different from what current games offer.

While we’ve yet to see some sort of gameplay, it looks like we’re looking at a hybrid of FIFA and Football Manager, with an emphasis on both off and on the pitch.

Nashilov explains that “you will manage your club, build a squad, develop tactics and compete with other players in seasons to prove your skills and reach the top of the league. Competitiveness and fair play are at the heart of UFL gameplay. In this competition, your victory it depends solely on your skills as a player and the decisions you make.”

“Fair to Play” is the UFL mantra, the central idea that drives what the game wants to achieve and, ultimately, its weapon in the fight against FIFA. It’s no secret that loot boxes and the whole pay-to-win factor in Ultimate Team mode have been controversial for years, and with billions of dollars being spent by players each year, it’s seemingly impossible to avoid the factor. pay-to-win.

Strikerz Inc. wants to completely depart from this approach, firmly believing that a player’s skill level, and nothing else, should determine how successful he will be at his football game.

“This is one of our most important principles, essential to everything we do. We believe that our players’ success should not depend on the number of in-game purchases they have made or how much money they spend, but rather on their skills as a player. , experience and mastery. You will never be forced to buy anything in the UFL to be able to climb the rankings”, he declares.

“The concept fair-to-play it also means that we will constantly be adding new updates and improvements without mandatory payments or annual fees. free to play is an established distribution model in the gaming industry that we want to bring to the football simulation genre. We believe that the model fair-to-play will make our game much more attractive for all football lovers,” he adds.

“In UFL, players will be able to control every aspect of the game, from the composition of teams to what tactics and formations will be used in the next match. Their path to victory is determined by their skill and nothing else. In other words, our game is designed to be a fair experience, which implies a skill-first approach and zero tolerance for pay-to-win options.”

Fair experience, skill first and zero tolerance for pay to win.

eFootball, formerly Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer, will also be released as a free-to-play game this year, so the change Nashilov talks about is already underway. However, there is still some confusion about how eFootball will work in terms of paid add-ons like new modes and player packs — it certainly won’t be 100% free, as UFL claims it is.

We don’t have a lot of details on how this will work, but Nashilov seems to promise paid UFL content just for in-game cosmetic content.

If the UFL really is as consumer-friendly as it is presented, then Strikerz Inc. could have a real game changer on its hands. Of course, with any football game, it will have to be dynamic on the field to stand any chance, and without looking at UFL gameplay, we simply have no way of knowing how close to creating “the perfect football game”, the developer it is.

It doesn’t look like we’ll find out anytime soon either, as Nashilov claims the team is “neither ready to announce the exact release date nor give any information about possible beta testing.”

It’s intriguing, though. Whereas new shooters, fighting games and racing games come out on a consistent basis to enter their respective crowded markets, new football games are just something that doesn’t happen anymore.

Strikerz Inc. may already have names like FIFA and eFootball in sight, but the ambitions don’t seem to stop there. Nashilov wants the UFL to be bigger than a game and something that, if things go as planned, will be part of sports culture for years to come.

With UFL, we are building more than just a game.

“The Premier League, NBA, NHL and other leagues are not just sports competitions, but powerful brands and sports and entertainment phenomena that connect fans around the world,” says Nashilov.

“With UFL, we are building more than just a game. Our mission is to build a powerful sports brand and create an ecosystem around the game that integrates online and offline aspects of the category: electronic sports, music, fashion, content creation, celebrities , partners and more.”

It’s a big move, but to really stand out against this established competition, it’s exactly what it should be. Time will tell whether the UFL can achieve its lofty ambitions — but either way, Strikerz Inc. has my attention.

*Translated by Victor Aliaga

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